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Living with the Reality of Dissociative Identity Disorder

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This book is the product of a Campaign Day organised by the Paracelsus Trust to raise awareness of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). The Campaign Day brought people together, enabling individuals to tell their story, and allowed all of those involved to recognise the progress that has been made in recognition of the condition, which has long been either ignored or misunderstood, and the possibilities for the future. As this was a profoundly moving experience, it was decided to put the presentations into a book, which recounts some painful personal experiences and some ideas for ways forward, always recognising the pain of the condition and the abuse that precedes it.The Paracelsus Trust is a Charity which exists to support people with DID who are in receipt of services from the Clinic for Dissociative Studies. The Trust has undertaken the work to bring this book to publication, and most of the authors are active in this or other supportive organisations. Bringing people with experience together and then writing a book which will be available for many has demonstrated a coherent approach that can only be helpful, as the disintegration experienced by sufferers hinders collective working and it is hoped that this publication will encourage others to speak out, as well as facilitate more understanding in the wider community.

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CHAPTER ONE Introduction

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CHAPTER ONE

Introduction

Pat Frankish

T

his book aims to bring together the threads that make up the campaign for people with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID).

The many threads reflect the multiplicity of the condition and this will become apparent as you read on. Weaving the threads together should be healing and that is one of the aims of the campaign. The multiplicity is both rich and confusing. Supporting people with DID can be exhausting. Living with it is both confusing and exhausting. DID is a survival mechanism and reflects the strength of the basic psyche to survive experiences that would drive some to psychosis.

The Clinic for Dissociative Studies (CDS) has taken a lead in the diagnosis and treatment of people with DID. Valerie Sinason has been a major contributor to the sharing of knowledge and raising the profile of this disabling condition. She has also been influential in highlighting ritual abuse as one of the main causes. This situation has led to many attacks from people who try to conceal their identity and role in the horrific abuse that people with DID report. Valerie, in particular, who has been willing to be named and to speak out, has been attacked in the press and on the internet. She continues to be brave and withstand these attacks, and is well supported by her colleagues to do this. The Bowlby Centre, looking at attachment and how this has been

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Chapter One: Introduction

ePub

Pat Frankish

This book aims to bring together the threads that make up the campaign for people with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). The many threads reflect the multiplicity of the condition and this will become apparent as you read on. Weaving the threads together should be healing and that is one of the aims of the campaign. The multiplicity is both rich and confusing. Supporting people with DID can be exhausting. Living with it is both confusing and exhausting. DID is a survival mechanism and reflects the strength of the basic psyche to survive experiences that would drive some to psychosis.

The Clinic for Dissociative Studies (CDS) has taken a lead in the diagnosis and treatment of people with DID. Valerie Sinason has been a major contributor to the sharing of knowledge and raising the profile of this disabling condition. She has also been influential in highlighting ritual abuse as one of the main causes. This situation has led to many attacks from people who try to conceal their identity and role in the horrific abuse that people with DID report. Valerie, in particular, who has been willing to be named and to speak out, has been attacked in the press and on the internet. She continues to be brave and withstand these attacks, and is well supported by her colleagues to do this. The Bowlby Centre, looking at attachment and how this has been damaged in people with DID, offers further interventions. These two organisations have pioneered the therapeutic work with people with DID. Many people with DID, including some of the contributors to this book, have endured life without the benefit of formal therapy directed at the condition. They have found their way through the maze and survived. Their work is testament to their courage and strength.

 

CHAPTER TWO The art of Kim Noble

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CHAPTER TWO

The art of Kim Noble

Kim Noble

F

rom the age of fourteen we had been in and out of hospital with several different diagnoses like anorexia, bulimia, psychosis, depression, post-traumatic stress, alcoholism, and schizophrenia.

No one understood about DID then. Now I understand that twenty main alters and many fragments share my body. Many of them have trouble accepting the idea that they share a body even though they have been told. I do understand how hard it is for them and for the rest of the population to make sense of DID as I had the same problem when

I was diagnosed in 1995. I blamed my memory problems on too much drinking. I was only drinking one or two glasses of wine but I seemed to always have a glass in my hand. I thought I must be an alcoholic. If you are sharing a body with other alters then you also share time so my time can be very much limited.

I am often asked, “What does it feel like to have DID?” The strange thing is that each of us is a person in our own right, no different from anyone else, so it is normal for us. It is how we have always been.

 

Chapter Two: The Art of Kim Noble

ePub

Kim Noble

From the age of fourteen we had been in and out of hospital with several different diagnoses like anorexia, bulimia, psychosis, depression, post-traumatic stress, alcoholism, and schizophrenia. No one understood about DID then. Now I understand that twenty main alters and many fragments share my body. Many of them have trouble accepting the idea that they share a body even though they have been told. I do understand how hard it is for them and for the rest of the population to make sense of DID as I had the same problem when I was diagnosed in 1995. I blamed my memory problems on too much drinking. I was only drinking one or two glasses of wine but I seemed to always have a glass in my hand. I thought I must be an alcoholic. If you are sharing a body with other alters then you also share time so my time can be very much limited.

I am often asked, “What does it feel like to have DID?” The strange thing is that each of us is a person in our own right, no different from anyone else, so it is normal for us. It is how we have always been.

 

Chapter Three: Spiritual Aspects of DID

ePub

Nicky Robertson

I am 57 years old, married to a vicar, and have three grown-up children. Five years ago I was diagnosed with severe dissociative identity disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, and depression.

After two years of battling for an assessment and a further two years of battling for funding, I have had three years of specialist therapy funded by the NHS. In that time I have been able to begin to face the trauma of the past, and in particular of the ritual abuse I suffered. To date I have around twenty-one known person parts or identities, and a lot of therapy so far has revolved around accepting those different parts, recognising how and why they were created, and acknowledging the roles that they took in helping me to survive.

A significant part of the journey through therapy for us has also been wrestling with the spiritual aspects of abuse. This has meant facing the effects that satanic rituals had on the ability to hold a faith of any kind in adulthood. But it has also meant wrestling with each internal person's sense of spiritual identity. There is, I think, a generally held belief that we are made up of body, mind, and soul or spirit. But while much has been written about the effects of trauma and abuse on the body and mind, I have found very little consideration given to the effects of abuse on the spirit.

 

CHAPTER THREE Spiritual aspects of DID

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CHAPTER THREE

Spiritual aspects of DID

Nicky Robertson

I

am 57 years old, married to a vicar, and have three grown-up children. Five years ago I was diagnosed with severe dissociative identity disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, and depression.

After two years of battling for an assessment and a further two years of battling for funding, I have had three years of specialist therapy funded by the NHS. In that time I have been able to begin to face the trauma of the past, and in particular of the ritual abuse I suffered. To date I have around twenty-one known person parts or identities, and a lot of therapy so far has revolved around accepting those different parts, recognising how and why they were created, and acknowledging the roles that they took in helping me to survive.

A significant part of the journey through therapy for us has also been wrestling with the spiritual aspects of abuse. This has meant facing the effects that satanic rituals had on the ability to hold a faith of any kind in adulthood. But it has also meant wrestling with each internal person’s sense of spiritual identity. There is, I think, a generally held belief that we are made up of body, mind, and soul or spirit. But while much has been written about the effects of trauma and abuse on the body and mind, I have found very little consideration given to the effects of abuse on the spirit.

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CHAPTER FOUR Reading, writing, and reeling

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CHAPTER FOUR

Reading, writing, and reeling

Oriel Winslow

S

tudents are well-known for their chaotic lives: for burning the midnight oil, drinking too much, living off baked beans to pay for gig tickets, and for thinking that traffic cones make appropriate front-room furniture. And in many respects I was a normal student who faced normal challenges. I ran out of money before the end of term, ran the drama society, had chair races down the corridor, went to Budgens at 3 am in my pyjamas, and once started an examined essay four hours before it was due, and only noticed after I had handed it in that it contained the line “the flower imagery is very flowery”.

But alongside this I had another, differently chaotic and frightening life, which the “normal” chaos of university life often camouflaged.

I have dissociative identity disorder. As well as the I that I am aware of—the student who had achieved As at A level, was excited about starting a new course and meeting new people—there are many other personalities residing in my body, who therefore share my experiences, and who at the time I was unaware of. This made my life at university incredibly complex. In addition to all the usual difficulties faced by students, trying to mix student life and DID creates a myriad of other problems: What do you do about lectures if someone is around who is too young to read? Or when the subject matter is triggering? What do

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Chapter Four: Reading, Writing, and Reeling

ePub

Oriel Winslow

Students are well-known for their chaotic lives: for burning the midnight oil, drinking too much, living off baked beans to pay for gig tickets, and for thinking that traffic cones make appropriate front-room furniture. And in many respects I was a normal student who faced normal challenges. I ran out of money before the end of term, ran the drama society, had chair races down the corridor, went to Budgens at 3 am in my pyjamas, and once started an examined essay four hours before it was due, and only noticed after I had handed it in that it contained the line “the flower imagery is very flowery”.

But alongside this I had another, differently chaotic and frightening life, which the “normal” chaos of university life often camouflaged. I have dissociative identity disorder. As well as the I that I am aware of—the student who had achieved As at A level, was excited about starting a new course and meeting new people—there are many other personalities residing in my body, who therefore share my experiences, and who at the time I was unaware of. This made my life at university incredibly complex. In addition to all the usual difficulties faced by students, trying to mix student life and DID creates a myriad of other problems: What do you do about lectures if someone is around who is too young to read? Or when the subject matter is triggering? What do you do when you have to finish an essay by the morning but someone else is determined to kill you before the night is out? What do you do when one of your four-year-olds starts screaming in the middle of a seminar presentation and you have no idea why? What do you do if you have an alter who was told by her abuser that she was “asking for it” when she wore jeans and therefore freaks out when you don the student uniform of jeans and a hoodie? What do you do when someone decides to deal with the fear of being raped for failing an exam by not going to said exam? Or when one of the little ones has become so attached to a faculty member that she won't let you function when they are off work? How do you explain to your tutor why you, who have just presented a mature, insightful argument in her seminar, are now sucking your thumb and unable to function?

 

CHAPTER FIVE The role of friends in recovery

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CHAPTER FIVE

The role of friends in recovery

Carolyn Bramhall and Deborah Briggs

I

f you think you’re too small to be effective, you’ve never been in bed with a mosquito.” Friends often feel “small” when it comes to effective support for those who have been severely traumatised.

However, we have found that non-professionals can play a hugely important role.

Therapists are restricted by availability and professional boundaries.

Friends are usually available and by keeping and maintaining healthy boundaries could be extremely valuable. When it comes to those with dissociative disorders, friends are often warned off from too much involvement for fear of doing further harm. What a shame!

Our planet is full of people. Due to their horrific experiences, survivors can be forgiven for believing that only bad people exist. However, there actually are good people out there who want to help, to love, to demonstrate that the world can be a beautiful place.

 

Chapter Five: The Role of Friends in Recovery

ePub

Carolyn Bramhall and Deborah Briggs

“If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in bed with a mosquito.” Friends often feel “small” when it comes to effective support for those who have been severely traumatised. However, we have found that non-professionals can play a hugely important role.

Therapists are restricted by availability and professional boundaries. Friends are usually available and by keeping and maintaining healthy boundaries could be extremely valuable. When it comes to those with dissociative disorders, friends are often warned off from too much involvement for fear of doing further harm. What a shame!

Our planet is full of people. Due to their horrific experiences, survivors can be forgiven for believing that only bad people exist. However, there actually are good people out there who want to help, to love, to demonstrate that the world can be a beautiful place.

We each hold our own truth. Understandably, survivors may be extremely wary of disclosing truth of abuse to “ordinary” people who may not know what to do with what they hear. This is a reality but also is the human need for connection.

 

Chapter Six: Satanic Ritual Abuse (The Painful Truth)

ePub

Paula Bennett

When people think of satanic rituals it may conjure up images of Harry Potter, witches, wizards, Halloween parties, annual trick-or-treating, and other harmless, if strange, fantasy and fun. However, in the actual world of Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA), there is no such thing as a treat, only evil tricks played on you by the very people who should be keeping you safe and secure.

I was born into a coven to a family spanning nine generations of witchcraft involvement on the maternal side and eight generations on the paternal side of the family. Most covens are family generated and high incidences of incest mean that members often cannot be sure who belongs to which family. Each month, a coven cult meeting of thirteen, twenty-four, or thirty-six members takes place with the leader—a high priest or priestess—and their master, Satan, to initiate new members or carry out rituals based on different phases of the moon.

On the coven calendar there are big meetings for events such as Easter, Christmas, and (the biggest of all) Halloween. These meetings are highly secretive and filled with sexual orgies, the sacrificing of animals and children, chanting and screaming in wild excitement, drinking, and drug taking. These are not celebrations, they are terror-filled, especially for the children who live in fear of rape, extreme physical trauma, and even the fear of having to watch or participate in the death of a friend. For three nights around Easter, children are shut in a closed coffin, and there is a Black Mass involving the murder of a baby, which is then burnt and eaten. Children are constantly kept in extreme anxiety until the next meeting, wondering if they will make it out alive.

 

CHAPTER SIX Satanic Ritual Abuse (the painful truth)

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CHAPTER SIX

Satanic Ritual Abuse (the painful truth)

Paula Bennett

W

hen people think of satanic rituals it may conjure up images of Harry Potter, witches, wizards, Halloween parties, annual trick-or-treating, and other harmless, if strange, fantasy and fun. However, in the actual world of Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA), there is no such thing as a treat, only evil tricks played on you by the very people who should be keeping you safe and secure.

I was born into a coven to a family spanning nine generations of witchcraft involvement on the maternal side and eight generations on the paternal side of the family. Most covens are family generated and high incidences of incest mean that members often cannot be sure who belongs to which family. Each month, a coven cult meeting of thirteen, twenty-four, or thirty-six members takes place with the leader—a high priest or priestess—and their master, Satan, to initiate new members or carry out rituals based on different phases of the moon.

 

Chapter Seven: Personal and Societal Denial

ePub

Carolyn Spring

I don't know who I am. I cannot be who I think I am, ungrateful recipient of a standard middle-class upbringing. I have dissociative identity disorder. I am a survivor of ritual abuse. I am Carolyn, Switch, Charlie, Leaf, Diddy, Yellow, Brat, and Shine. I am 100 others, maverick cameos in my stop-start life of conscious unconsciousness. I am me. Am I me? How do I know that I am me? How do I know that anything bad ever happened? How do I know that these memories of rape, of torture, of murder are not just phantoms on my eyelids?

How do I know that these feelings of rage and terror and horror and grief are not just chemical imbalances circling through my blood? Deep in my guts is the afterglow of trauma. Deep in my guts is a terror-stricken child. All day, all night—pain, the screech of remembering. I am infested with memories. They are like maggots crawling on the underbelly of my consciousness. They shouldn't be here, they're not mine—I am not the me that remembers. I am the ungrateful recipient of a standard middle-class upbringing. I am in denial.

 

CHAPTER SEVEN Personal and societal denial

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CHAPTER SEVEN

Personal and societal denial

Carolyn Spring

I

don’t know who I am. I cannot be who I think I am, ungrateful recipient of a standard middle-class upbringing. I have dissociative identity disorder.

I am a survivor of ritual abuse. I am Carolyn, Switch, Charlie, Leaf, Diddy,

Yellow, Brat, and Shine. I am 100 others, maverick cameos in my stop-start life of conscious unconsciousness. I am me. Am I me? How do I know that

I am me? How do I know that anything bad ever happened? How do I know that these memories of rape, of torture, of murder are not just phantoms on my eyelids?

How do I know that these feelings of rage and terror and horror and grief are not just chemical imbalances circling through my blood? Deep in my guts is the afterglow of trauma. Deep in my guts is a terror-stricken child. All day, all night—pain, the screech of remembering. I am infested with memories. They are like maggots crawling on the underbelly of my consciousness.

 

Chapter Eight: Living with DID

ePub

Carol Broad

This chapter is accredited to Carol Broad, an individual who has dissociative identity disorder, but Caitlyn, one of her many alters, is undertaking this task on behalf of the multitude of identities that together make up who we are.

Life as a multiple is never boring; we are all unique in our own special way, as is everyone with a dissociative disorder.

If you were to look at me, you'd see a single person, a female in her early forties; but when we look in the mirror we see us, fragmented identities living within one body. At the time of writing we are twenty-six alters each with our own distinct personality. When we delivered our Living with DID presentation in March 2011, there were just seventeen of us, though we had grown from the original six Carol knew of when she was initially diagnosed in 2008. Such is the reality of life with DID. We are still growing as we discover further “hidden” identities within ourselves. There are many terms used to describe an identity, from parts to personalities, but we prefer the term “alters”. We currently range from a small baby who is best described as “innocent”; to Lucy, a precocious but loveable five-year-old; to Caz, a moody teen; and to adult female and male alters. Sara is our most organised, and Toni he's sports mad, whilst me (Caitlyn), well, I guess I'm determined and the others think I'm quite feisty, not that I'd disagree.

 

CHAPTER EIGHT Living with DID

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CHAPTER EIGHT

Living with DID

Carol Broad

T

his chapter is accredited to Carol Broad, an individual who has dissociative identity disorder, but Caitlyn, one of her many alters, is undertaking this task on behalf of the multitude of identities that together make up who we are.

Life as a multiple is never boring; we are all unique in our own special way, as is everyone with a dissociative disorder.

If you were to look at me, you’d see a single person, a female in her early forties; but when we look in the mirror we see us, fragmented identities living within one body. At the time of writing we are twentysix alters each with our own distinct personality. When we delivered our Living with DID presentation in March 2011, there were just seventeen of us, though we had grown from the original six Carol knew of when she was initially diagnosed in 2008. Such is the reality of life with

DID. We are still growing as we discover further “hidden” identities within ourselves. There are many terms used to describe an identity, from parts to personalities, but we prefer the term “alters”. We currently range from a small baby who is best described as “innocent”; to

 

Chapter Nine: Back to Normal? Surviving Life with Dissociation

ePub

Rob Spring

We had been married for four years when suddenly everything changed: my wife “went mad”.

For four years we had led a relatively normal life. We had been working together for two years as full-time foster carers; we were busy and active members in our local church; and we socialised as much as was possible with five small children in tow. Carolyn had always been very industrious, high-achieving and competent, excelling at everything she did. She was very level-headed, very much in control of herself, and very unfamiliar with emotional outbursts. She was a bit of a visionary, churning out a thousand ideas an hour, but she also usually had the expertise and the drive to turn those ideas into reality. I loved her very much, and life together was good.

So when everything changed, it felt like she had gone insane.

It all happened, literally, overnight. In April 2005 she suddenly had a breakdown. She had a difficult night, waking frequently with nightmares. In the early hours of the morning, I found her sat on the edge of the bed, staring into space, unresponsive, almost catatonic. And then she became upset. She was talking about things that didn't make sense, in half-sentences, incomprehensible, and bizarre. She became highly agitated, distressed, inconsolable. And I didn't know what to do. The next morning she awoke with a pounding heart and an unfathomable sense of terror. She felt as if she were locked in a room with a tiger with no possibility of escape. The panic, the distress, the huge waves of feelings that suddenly swamped her—we were both as bewildered as each other. Perhaps it was too many sleepless nights. Perhaps it was a build-up of stress from doing some particularly intense adoption work with our foster children. Perhaps it would just get better in a day or two and we would get back to normal.

 

CHAPTER NINE Back to normal? Surviving life with dissociation

PDF

CHAPTER NINE

Back to normal? Surviving life with dissociation

Rob Spring

W

e had been married for four years when suddenly everything changed: my wife “went mad”.

For four years we had led a relatively normal life. We had been working together for two years as full-time foster carers; we were busy and active members in our local church; and we socialised as much as was possible with five small children in tow. Carolyn had always been very industrious, high-achieving and competent, excelling at everything she did. She was very level-headed, very much in control of herself, and very unfamiliar with emotional outbursts. She was a bit of a visionary, churning out a thousand ideas an hour, but she also usually had the expertise and the drive to turn those ideas into reality.

I loved her very much, and life together was good.

So when everything changed, it felt like she had gone insane.

It all happened, literally, overnight. In April 2005 she suddenly had a breakdown. She had a difficult night, waking frequently with nightmares. In the early hours of the morning, I found her sat on the edge of the bed, staring into space, unresponsive, almost catatonic. And then she became upset. She was talking about things that didn’t make sense, in half-sentences, incomprehensible, and bizarre. She became highly

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